Look for a hat

Professor Plum rants about busting up an education professors’ teleconference by asking for evidence: “Do you have any data showing that portfolio assessment results in better judgments of teacher quality than the judgment of a principal and mentor who see a new teacher all year?”

Afterwards, four or five of my collards accosted me and said, “That was inappropriate” and “You were not respectful.” I replied, “Nice hat,” or something equally charming.

That was my first lesson in the politics and intellectual dishonesty in education. Forced consensus. Shut up and go along. After stupification, the underlying power relations become invisible. Indeed, desirable. Ed perfessers come to like Big Brother. He takes care of them. Defends them from the wolves who are onto the game.

Over the next few years I read the websites and syllabi from hundreds of ed schools. I reviewed the literature in whole language, constructivism, “authentic assessments,” learning styles, and multiple intelligences — and other “pedagogies” that struck my cynical nature as weird beyond belief. I even tried to figure out what “brain-based learning” was — because, I reasoned, “What OTHER organ WOULD be involved? Before brain-based learning was there BUTTOCKS based learning? Sure they ARE similar. Two hemispheres. A nearby segment of spine. A division down the middle. An apparatus for speaking your mind. But usually you can tell which is which. Just look for a hat!”

Then my graduate assistant and I began working on our own. We suggested to all the elementary schools in the county that they could raise reading achievement for all kids if they used better curricula — in fact, Reading Mastery, starting in kindergarten, and Corrective Reading for kids at least one year behind, starting in grade three. Within two years, 20 out of 23 schools did just that, and got those results.

Plum also lists useful resources for teachers.

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